LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A white man and a black woman who were both fired as Little Rock police recruits for using a racial slur are suing the city, alleging they were unfairly singled out for termination.
Brandon Schiefelbein and Katina Jones filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a Pulaski County Circuit judge to make the city give them their jobs back plus back pay, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Schiefelbein and Jones used the slur on Facebook in the context of quotes before joining the force, according to the lawsuit. Jones’ post contained song lyrics; she was 16 at the time. Schiefelbein was 19 when he posted a quote by comedian Kevin Hart.
The suit alleged the firings were unreasonably harsh punishment compared with other officers and city employees accused of similar conduct, such as officers who made “disrespectful” social media posts about former President Barack Obama and weren’t fired.
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Police Chief Kenton Buckner, who made the decision to fire the two recruits, “personally approves of the use of” the slur by his defense of an employee posting on the official Little Rock Police Facebook page a like for a rapper who uses the word in his music, according to the lawsuit. Bucker is also named in the lawsuit.
“The defendant Buckner, while exercising his right to listen to a music that others would find offensive, punished the plaintiffs for language that he listens to and likes,” the suit stated.
Other recruits were allowed to “clean up” their Facebook posts without reprisal whereas Schiefelbein was fired despite already removing his post, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also stated Jones’ Facebook was password protected so whoever turned the information over to police had to get it illegally. She alleged Buckner knew the material was illegally obtained and still used it to fire Jones.
City Attorney Tom Carpenter didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com